Compete and Cheer, But Don't Converse and Coordinate?!?

Compete and Cheer, But Don’t Converse and Coordinate?!?

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Open water swimming has been so well defined and well represented by well-spoken and thoughtful swimmers like Sarah Thomas, Jaimie Monahan, Keri-Anne Payne, Yvetta Hlaváčová, Poliana Okimoto, Ana Marcela Cunha, Pat Gallant-Charette, Kimberley Chambers, Mariel Hawley Dávila, Edith van Dijk, Britta Kamrau, and Pilar Geijo, as well as administrators from Shelley Taylor-Smith, Rondi Davies, Mel Cunningham, Lynn Blouin, and Sue Guesdon, and coaches like Nora Toledano, Catherine Kase, Penny Dean and Siga Rose. The other Olympic sports – both Summer and Winter Games – include a body of well-spoken and intelligent women. So it was unfortunate to read the public comments by former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori as reported by domestic and foreign newspapers (Japan Times here and New York Times here).

The 83-year-old’s comments were upsetting to some, including thse on social media who called for his resignation: #森喜朗氏は引退してください.

Women – who make up a majority of Olympic Games fans, at least in the United States when all television and media platforms are analyzed – deserve to be part – a major part – of the organization, planning and execution of the Games,” opined Steven Munatones. “Their collective talents, insights and creativity are sorely needed and greatly appreciated – and provide a good balance to the views of the male decision-makers like Prime Minister Mori.”

3-time Olympic gold medalist and attorney Nancy Hogshead-Makar, CEO of Champion Women, knows very well that women and girls have a long way to go to achieve some sort of equality with their male colleagues. She explains what she is facing – and doing – in the United States, “Ten years of work and many collaborations came together to pass the Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athletes Act of 2020, which is now federal law. The statute fundamentally shifts power towards athletes. Also, because of our efforts, the United States Olympic & Paralympic Alumni Association will remove anyone on the SafeSport banned list. That means survivors are welcome in the Olympic movement… and abusers are out.

These two milestones are just two checkmarks towards our larger goal to remedy sexual abuse, athlete abuse, and discrimination in the Olympic Movement. Current college women [in the United States] are using Title IX to require an end to systemic, intentional sex discrimination in athletics.

For five years, Champion Women’s initiative to stop colleges from discriminating against their female students athletes included letters and legal memos detailing their school’s lack of Title IX compliance to dozens of college administrators and to the broader academic communities…to no avail.”

She admitted, “We failed: no new teams, no additional scholarships, no end to second-class treatment. So we changed strategies.

In mid-2020, as the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on colleges became clear, we expected schools to shrinking their departments, and grow the sex discrimination gap for their female students. Data is power, so our new director of operations, Janine Kuestner, our intrepid interns, and I crunched the numbers. See our work on our new website, titleixschools.com and check your school at bit.ly/ChampionWomen2019Data. We discovered the aggregated numbers are bleak.

We found that in the 2018-2019 school year, college women missed out on 183,130 sports participation opportunities, or over 9,000 new college teams, nearly US$1 billion in scholarship dollars, and US$163,572,190 in recruiting dollars.

In addition to making the numbers accessible and easy to understand for athletes, families, and other non-experts, along with the California Women’s Law Center, we sent out more than 40 sets of letters and legal memos. This time, in addition to college presidents and athletic directors, we targeted athletic conference leadership. The responses were pure pablum, ‘We support our women athletes…’ while ignoring the enormous gaps in teams and scholarships, with no effort to rectify this intentional, systemic sex discrimination.

So we repurposed our letters, tables, graphics and legal memos with a new audience: current students.

As schools cut sports, we reached out to those sport communities. We relied on strong Title IX regulations and case law – the work of an army of advocates over decades. We made snazzy presentations that crunched the data for that particular school, got on Zoom calls with 100+ students, alumni, boosters and families – and laid it all out. Their schools COULD NOT CUT THEIR TEAM. Were they willing to fight for it? The answer has been a resounding success.

Every time we make a pitch, current students are emboldened. Lawyers are trained, demand letters sent, cases are being filed, settlements requiring not just that teams be dropped, but ending these giant gaps in opportunities and second-class treatment issues will be fixed. The judge in the case against the University of Iowa was harsh on the school, “Financial hardship is not a defense to a Title IX violation.”

We want to see real change happen by 2022, the 50th anniversary of Title IX.

There’s so much work to be done to hit that number. I still spend a portion of my time doing paid legal work to support Champion Women. To really move the needle, we need another staff member, besides the amazing Janine Kuestner, and I need to be able to focus my efforts on the work of Champion Women. As I told my friend making a big donation, ‘Your donation pays for me to be able to sleep.’

Please consider making a recurring gift to help sustain our work.”

For more information, visit championwomen.org.

Note: In a recent survey, nearly 60% of people in Japan believe Tokyo Olympic chief Yoshiro Mori, is not qualified to serve in the top post, according to a Kyodo News survey, with only 6.8% who believe Mori should be head of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee. He later apologized for making sexist remarks about women, but that he would not resign.

The same survey reported that 47.1% of Japanese people think that the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics should be postponed again due to the coronavirus pandemic. 35.2% believe the Olympics should be canceled and 14.5% say the Games should be held as planned.

Photo above shows Gursel Şen, Shelley Taylor-Smith, and Pelin Çelik.

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